Tuition hikes cause students to take on more debt after graduation

Emily DeShazer | The Collegian

Tuition has steadily been on the rise for universities across the country, and the state of Kansas is no exception. Last summer, the Kansas Board of Regents approved tuition increases for all of the state’s public universities due to cuts in funding for higher education while nearby states, such as Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma, increased funding for their higher-learning institutes.

K-State has increased tuition for students every year since 1989, and now it has increased tuition by another 6.7 percent as a result of the decrease in state funding. As of the fall 2013 semester, a Kansas resident undergraduate taking 15 credit hours can expect to pay $4,292.70 per semester for tuition and fees. This is more than double the cost that students paid just 10 years earlier — $2,030.00.

Jodi Kaus, director of Powercat Financial Counseling, said they have seen students and their families struggling more in recent times because of financial issues.

“Finance problems is the main reason why people drop out and don’t return; not grades,” she said.

The steady increase of tuition means more students are relying on loans to pay for school and are graduating with debt. According to American Student Assistance, approximately 60 percent of college students borrow money each year to pay for school. The ACA was citing research from The Project on Student Debt, which also showed that the average student who graduated in 2012 had more than $29,000 in debt – approximately $3,000 more than just a year before.

William Elliott III, an assistant professor at KU who has been studying the effects of student loan debt for 10 years, told the Wichita Eagle in an August 10, 2013 article that this debt is not only crippling younger generations of Americans, but is also taking a toll on the American economy.

Some students face a heavier financial burden than others. Students from outside of Kansas currently pay $10,675.20 in tuition and fees for a 15 credit hour semester, not including text books.

Tuition costs and student debt are increasing at a faster rate for veterinary students than for others, according to Mike Apley, professor and section head of Production Medicine/Clinical Pharmacology. In an April 19, 2013 article for Bovine Veterinarian, Apley said many veterinary schools aim to admit a higher number of nonresident students because the out-of-state tuition they pay is often twice as high as it is for resident students. According to K-State’s website, resident veterinary students currently pay the same amount per semester at K-State as nonresident students studying other fields — $10,675.20 — while nonresident veterinary medicine students can expect to pay $23,619.70 for just one semester.

This means veterinary medicine students often have much more debt than other students do upon graduation. According to the article, 10 percent of veterinary students who graduated in 2012 had more than $300,000 in debt.

Kaus said there are a number of things students can do to help their financial situation. She recommended students visit Powercat Financial Counseling before they accept student loans offered to them through FAFSA so they can better understand what is being offered to them and how it will affect them later. Subsidized federal loans, for example, are often a better deal for students than unsubsidized loans.

“It’s the preferred kind of loan because the interest is paid by the government while the student is in school,” she said.

Kaus also recommended students work out a budget to decide exactly how much they need to survive each semester. Having better and more deliberate planning can make a difference, she said.

“Not a lot of students in high school took a personal finance class, so in college there’s a big learning curve,” Kaus said.

Filling out FAFSA as early as possible is also important, Kaus said.

Exploring other means of support, such as scholarships or part-time work, is also helpful. There are programs to help out with the cost of school after the fact, such as the Rural Opportunity Zones in Kansas which can pay up to $15,000 of a student’s loan debts for living in certain rural counties. Similar programs exist in other states and cities, as well.

Finally, there is an online financial tool available for students and alumni called $ALT. K-State has paid for full membership, so the program is available for free to K-Staters who wish to try it. The program can help students learn about finance before they graduate, but it can also be helpful for those who have graduated and are struggling to balance student loan payments with other bills. It can even be used to search for scholarships, internships and jobs.

More information on $ALT and other services offered by Powercat Financial Counseling can be found at or by calling 785-532-2889.